Thursday, September 6, 2018

When Facebook Becomes Blogging

We are living in an era when everything about democracy's basic building blocks: its apparatus of intelligence gathering, economic capital, economic regulation, government departments, and most importantly, intellectual debate, have worn very thin and decadent. We've grown so democratic that we apply democracy to facts themselves, to giving the option to both right and left to reject statistical findings that hundreds of thousands of experts, even millions, have collected with greater knowledge and accuracy than ever before in human history. Companies are no longer properly regulated and grow as powerful as nation states themselves, governments are controlled by prosperous minorities who feel they have no need to provide for people who don't benefit from the system, intelligence agencies and political ministries and cabinets are increasingly subordinated to political agendas rather than the welfare of those they govern, and political debate is locked away in ideological certainties that exclude the possibility of reasoned disagreement because those who disagree are simply unable to understand because of the innate evil in their character rather than being simply and tragically misinformed.
Like every political system before it, liberal democracy failed to evolve flexibly enough to fit its times, just as Great Power Monarchies did in the 1880s and 90s, and thus we increasingly stand teetering on a precipice of a collapse, and in a generation that's exactly what we might have in a rain of blood just as the imperial powers collapsed into World War I, or absolute monarchy collapsed into the French Revolution. The centrally planned technocratic authoritarianism of China will be shielded from it just as democratic America was shielded from World War I, and the liberal monarchy of England was basically shielded from the French Revolution and Napoleon.
But just as happened in the generation before World War I and the French Revolution, part of a system's dismantlement is that as the Right increasingly consolidates its power, the Left becomes increasingly unmoored with all kinds of un-thought through radical notions that do nothing to liberate people but plenty to kill them. There is no point to the increase of liberty if you're already dead.
When I see Jeremy Corbyn, I see where America is soon headed. The English government, European governments generally, provide all the social services that turn American liberals green with envy. All the social services that, if Western Europe were operating with America's purchasing power, could keep the world stable in near-perpetuity. Even after Thatcher and Blair, even after all the French Gaulleists, both of whom tried to dismantle its achievement, none of them could do it. It's called falsely called Social Democracy, but is really just how a liberal democracy should properly function as Roosevelt and Keynes envisioned it. But for some people, it's never enough. They see that some people want to dismantle it, they panic, and they'd sooner blow up the whole thing to start over rather than accept that no achievement is a utopia and no achievement can ever be completely stable. There will be plenty of Americans who fall for that viciously dangerous lie just as lots of Brits and French have, and among people I know, I feel as though I can identify which will fall for it right down to person to person.
Jeremy Corbyn is not Bernie Sanders. The Bernie Sanderses (and Jim Callaghans) of the world make leaders like Corbyn possible, but Corbyn may well be an English Hugo Chavez. Somebody whom in better circumstances would be dismissed as a small town mediocre political agitator, there are thousands of them, and in less stable times, dumb luck deposits one those mediocrities into a leadership role. Capitalism teeters on the verge of a collapse from the hubris of people who exploit it and governments who fail to maintain it properly, and rather than blame it on the evil in human beings, it's inevitably alleged to be the fault of the system itself.
Ever since 2008, we've been on the brink of a depression still worse than The Great Recession. It's coming. The world is increasingly dominated by just a few companies, the collapse of any one of could cause it. With the ever larger specter of automation, with the ever advancing specter of ecological catastrophe, this is all possible very soon. The far left will crow that they saw it coming a mile away. Otherwise sensible people will marvel at their prescience; just as their parents and grandparents marveled at conservatives’ prescience that Reagan’s weapons buildup would end communism, and that accelerated civil rights legislation would cause urban decline. In one dimension, they all have a kind of truth to them, yet they egregiously ignore the entire context. The pendulum always swings, and whichever fanatic’s side it favors at the moment get to say they were always right without the world laughing them out of debate forever.
In the coming years, leaders like Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Melanchon, or whatever their updated American equivalents turn out to be, will seem like an ever more appealing alternative to the Trumps and Pences and Putins and Netanyahus and Orbans and Erdogans and Dutertes's. Just as a hundred and two hundred years previously, people with even the slightest intellectual or radical bent will sign onto their agendas, and the conflict between the two immovable sides will probably sign the death warrants of millions. Every debate we're now having will seem completely insignificant.
You'll all do what you do regardless of what I say, but you don't get to say you weren't warned.

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